Austin, TX – The dynasty continues for the five time ABA Champion Jacksonville Giants. The Giants, in front of a tough Texas crowd, defeated the Austin Bats, 119-114, to win their third straight ABA Championship. The Giants have made ABA history as being the only team to win three consecutive ABA titles and are the only ABA organization to win five championships. Its safe to say that the city of Jacksonville is “Title Town USA” for the American Basketball Association. Jacksonville ends the season at 22-1.
“The three peat is alive!” said an excited Giants head coach Jerry Williams. “I’m extremely proud of my guys. They came together and finished our goal. Five championships for the organization is beautiful.”
The season started with great promise as the Giants returned a majority of players from the 2016-17 team. The Giants started the season with an impressive 8-0 record, which included 30 straight wins dating back to December 2016. Jacksonville suffered a close 103-99 loss to the Orlando Waves in early January. However, the Giants bounced back winning all their remaining games and dominating Orlando in a February rematch, 127-94.
“Great win!” said assistant coach Marcus Thomas. “Proud of the guys for finishing out the season. Great group of guys and finishing the goal was what we wanted to do.”
The Championship game was Jacksonville’s biggest test for the season. The Giants would advance to the ABA Finals game with their opponent being the local Austin Bats team. The Bats, like the Giants, had only one loss this season and would look to benefit from the home court advantage as this seasons ABA Championship tournament was held in Austin, Texas. However, the Giants used their championship attitude to outplay the aggressive Bats team and win their third straight championship.
“We did it for Duval,” said guard Bernard Nugent. Nugent was named ABA Finals MVP. “We are glad to win this championship.”
The Bats jumped out to an early 19-13 first quarter lead, but the speedy play of Jacksonville helped the Giants regain the lead late in the first. Former ABA MVP Jeremiah Hill converted on an explosive slam dunk at the end of the quarter to give his team a 33-28 lead. Bell ended the game with 10 points on the night. Calvin Warner also provided strong inside play with 15 points in the game. Jeremiah Hill came off the bench to add nine points.
The second quarter was thrilling for both fan bases as both team competed back and forth. Offensively the tempo was rapid for both teams with the Giants hanging on to a slim 61-58 halftime lead. Similar to the Final Four game, Jacksonville regained their composure and went into the fourth and final quarter with a superior 94-79 lead. The guard play was once again the difference throughout the game for Jacksonville. Reigning ABA MVP and point guard Maurice Mickens scored 35 points on the night, with shooting guard Nugent adding 25 points. The duo contributed for just over 50 percent of the teams total points on the evening.
Despite the lead, Austin didn’t back down. The Bats went on a scoring rally of their own, cutting the Giant lead to 107-104 midway through the fourth quarter. Dee Grismore was the leading scorer for the Bats with 20 points. At this moment the Giants looked to Mickens to make a play and the ABA All Star did just that. Mickens landed four straight three-point baskets, which extended the Giants lead and ultimately helped seal the win and third straight Championship.
“We did what champions do which is finish on top,” said Warner. “No matter how it looked we prevailed in the end.”